Controlled Environment Research Group – Team

Faculty & Staff Members

Daniel E. Wells

Associate Professor, Specialty Crops —

Cathy Browne

Research Assistant IV—
Cathy received a BS in Horticulture from Auburn University in 1987 and started as a Research Assistant in 1998 working for Dr. Bill Goff doing pecan research. After Dr. Goff’s retirement, Cathy was assigned to work with Dr. Wells assisting his graduate students in their academic and research pursuits.

Caroline Blanchard

Research Associate II—
Caroline Blanchard grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2017, she received her B.S. in Plant and Soil Systems from Louisiana State University before pursuing a master’s degree in Horticulture at Auburn University. After working as a garden manager for an indoor hydroponic farm in Huntsville, Alabama, she returned to Auburn as a Research Associate for the Horticulture Department. She helps graduate students and researchers with experimental design and setup, data collection, and data analysis.

Jack Maruna

Consulting Project Manager—
Jack Maruna is originally from Montgomery, AL and graduated with a B.S. in Agricultural Business and Economics from Auburn University in 2018. Since Graduating Jack’s two main areas of private industry experience have been in CEA and culinary. Jack worked with Biobest as a greenhouse consultant mainly focusing on biological solutions in the Midwest for two years and has since been with FreshPoint, consulting chefs and kitchens on the fresh portion of their menus. Jack is now the consulting manager for any project that Dr. Daniel Wells oversees as well as a liaison between the Department of Horticulture and new Culinary Sciences Department.

Undergrad Students

Emelia Larson

Freight Farms Manager –
Emelia Larson was born and raised in Auburn, AL. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture Fruit and Vegetable Production at Auburn University with expected graduation Spring 23’. She is the Freight Farms manager, partnering with campus dining to feed the students at Auburn University. She has worked with freight farms since the installation in May 2021.

Graduate Students

Dorcas Lukwesa

Graduate Research Assistant-
Dorcas Lukwesa is a master’s student from Zambia. She received her bachelor’s degree in Agriculture sciences from EARTH University in Costa Rica. She first joined Auburn University as an intern in 2021 at AU Aquaponics facility located at the E.W. Shell Fisheries Center. As an intern, Dorcas participated in the research and projects under Dr. Wells’ supervision. Alongside that, she did a short trial which involved the use of alternative materials, like bamboo, for constructing backyard aquaponics systems as way to promote aquaponics system adoption in low-income communities where resources are limited. As a master’s student under Dr. Wells, Dorcas is continuing her research on bamboo-based hydroponic components in aquaponic production as well as conducting trials on new production techniques to address crop production in marine aquaponics.

Zach Morgan

Graduate Research Assistant –
Zach Morgan is a master’s student from Gadsden, Alabama. He received his bachelor’s degree in Biosystems Engineering from Auburn University in 2021, and then completed an internship with the growing team in Tanimura & Antle’s deep-water hydroponic facility in Livingston, TN. Much of this time was spent verifying the Priva climate control system, implementing a smart IPM program, evaluating new crop protection strategies specific to greenhouse vegetables, and troubleshooting the operation of a newly constructed greenhouse. Currently, he operates the horticultural portions of the Poultryponics project, working to increase circularity and productivity within modern agriculture.

Mackenzie Pennington

Graduate Research Assistant-
Mackenzie Pennington is a graduate student in the department of horticulture from Childersburg, Alabama. She graduated from Auburn University in May of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. Mackenzie was the recipient of the undergraduate research fellowship program in 2019-2020. Her research was facilitated in hydroponics under Dr. Wells program. She worked in the Freight farms located on campus in 2021 as a grower. Her current research will be conducted in the rooftop garden facility located on the Rane Culinary Science Center. Mackenzie facilitates day to day rooftop garden upkeep and manages undergraduate students to get hands-on experience.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Emmanuel Ayipio

Emmanuel Ayipio – Postdoctoral Fellow—
Emmanuel Ayipio (Ph.D.) is originally from Nawognia, a small village in Navrongo of the Upper East Region of Ghana. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in agriculture technology from the University for Development Studies, Nyakpala Campus, Ghana. After a few years of work in Ghana’s CSIR-Savanna Agricultural Research Institute, Dr. Ayipio proceeded to Germany where he obtained a Master’s degree in International Horticulture from the Leibniz University of Hannover under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Hartmut Stuetzel. Dr. Ayipio came to Auburn University in August 2018 and successfully defended his dissertation in July 2021 on “Utilizing Aquaculture Effluent Efficiently in Cucumber Production through Substrate Choice and Fertigation Management”. Dr. Ayipio is currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow to advance his research with aquaculture effluent whilst assisting his Principal Investigator, Dr. Daniel Wells, who was also his former Ph.D. advisor, as a co-instructor in some classes. Aside assisting graduate and undergraduate students to implement their research ideas, Dr. Ayipio has several projects to help address key research questions related to aquaponics.

Dr. Ayipio Serves as the research arm of Dr. Well’s lab. View Scholar Profile.






Associate Professor
170A Funchess Hall
Auburn Univ, AL 36849